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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Sovent Taylor and Others Receive Outstanding Staff Awards

Personnel recognized for excellence in service categories

MAY 23, 2016  |  BY EDWIN SMITH

Human Resources employee Andrea Jekabsons was all smiles Friday (May 20) after being named the University of Mississippi’s 2016 Overall Outstanding Staff Member.

Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter presented the assistant director of employment and training a plaque, $1,000 and two season football tickets during the annual Staff Appreciation Awards program in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

“The overall award winner this year has been with us since 2006, but the contribution she is making is already significant,” Vitter said. “She is a role model for her peers and has proven herself to be one of the leaders on her team. She takes pride in all that she does and is an outstanding employee. She loves her job, and it shows in her performance.”

Beaming with joy as she jogged to the stage to accept her award, Jekabsons said she was truly humbled.

“I tried to get my staff to come on stage with me because I always say, ‘It takes a village,’” she said. “I’m taking my first two-week vacation this summer, so this (cash award) will certainly make that more enjoyable.”

Six other employees were equally surprised to be presented Outstanding Service Awards, including a $500 stipend, in their respective EEO categories. Winners were Jeffery McManus, director of landscape services and airport/golf course operations, for EEO 1 (Executive and Managerial); Jennifer Phillips, assistant director for retention, for EEO 3 (Professional Nonfaculty); Kimberly Barnes, executive coordinator to the Chancellor, for EEO 4 (Secretarial/Clerical); Jason T. Mangrum, instrumentation and controls technician in the Physical Plant Department, for EEO 5 (Technical/Paraprofessional); Jonathan Joe “J.J.” Potts, senior plumber in the Physical Plant Department, for EEO 6 (Skilled Crafts); and Sheila Ann Lewis, senior custodian in Custodial Services, for EEO 7 (Service Maintenance).

More than 280 UM employees were recognized during the ceremony. Those hired since May 1 were asked to stand in the assembly. Afterwards, 102 five-year, 72 10-year and 33 15-year employees were called. Each received a certificate and lapel pin in recognition of their service.

A plaque and keepsake was presented to 30 20-year, 19 25-year, five 30-year and 25 30-plus-year employees for their dedicated service to the institution. Among these was Katherine Tidwell, manager of contractual services and director of the University ID center, who received a lengthy standing ovation for her 47 years here. Having served under four chancellors, Tidwell has been a UM employee longer than anyone.

Near the program’s end, two surprise awards were presented. The first was the second annual Daniel W. Jones, M.D. Outstanding Team Service Award, which went to 10 employees known as “The Student Advising and Field Experience Team” in the School of Education.

The second award was the Staff Council Distinguished Service Award, presented to Sovent Taylor for his outstanding leadership as staff council president.

“You, the staff here, are what make the University of Mississippi work,” Vitter said. “I’m honored to be a part of this great, great family.”

The outstanding staff awards were created in 1990 as a way to honor staff members for their contributions to the university.

“Staff members can vote for other staff members in their respective EEO categories through myOleMiss,” said Taylor (BA psychology and BBA ’03, MA education ’06), assistant director and instructor of the Health Professions Advising Office in the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience. “The person with the most votes in their respective EEO category is recognized at our awards day ceremony.”

Anyone can nominate someone for the overall outstanding staff member, regardless of EEO category.

“Individuals wishing to nominate a staff member for the overall outstanding award submit a narrative explaining why they believe their nominee should be recognized,” Taylor said. “These nomination forms then go before a committee of staff council members who choose the overall outstanding staff member.”

Congratulations to all this year’s winners! I’m celebrating a decade of employment at UM and look forward to many more years to come.